Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Light Stuff

Since my semester ended yesterday, I have finally been able to make the trips to see almost all of my favorite displays of Christmas lights here in the Metroplex. On Monday night, we caught the display at Springpark, just up the road on the Garland/Richardson border. As I've mentioned in an earlier post about local lights, Springpark has a lot of cul-de-sacs, which lend themselves to being made into "theme" streets, and this year's installment didn't fail to please. I've been coming here for a good ten years now, and I've got the trip down to a science (as in I can catch the whole neighborhood with a minimum of doubling back). My favorite street (and that of the judges) had the theme "The stars at night are big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas." There were stars galore, hanging from the trees and what-not. Despite not arriving until around 10 p.m., most of the lights in the neighborhood were still on.

Last night took us to two places, and the first one was new: Frisco Square (it's the new downtown that Frisco is building, about half a mile down the road from the original downtown and right across the street from Pizza Hut Park). I'd read about this in the paper: A local resident who's become well-known for a computerized light display at his house (and for running a company, Illumimax LLC, a big national holiday lighting consultant), and the result is really cool. The 70,000 lights are synchronized to four different pieces of music (including one each from the obligatory Christmas bands, Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Mannheim Steamroller), which is broadcast on a low-power FM station and through speakers throughout the square (if we'd known that at the time, we'd have actually gotten out of the car). The lights flash and dance around on both of the retail/apartment buildings and the ornate new City Hall. The whole thing was rather amazing, especially if one pondered the amount of programming that had to have gone into the display. (We also wondered if the people in the apartment buildings ever experienced Pokemon seizures from having the lights go on and off like that all the time.)

There are plenty of other activities going on at the Square, a list of which may be found here. We heard the announcement (broadcast between each of the songs) that they would be showing The Polar Express on an inflatable outdoor screen on Saturday night, but with a forecast low of 37 that night, it might be a bit more "polar" than many families will be able to stand. Still, it's a great addition to the holiday light tradition, and it's great to see that they have so many family activities planned.

Our next stop was Deerfield in Plano. This has been a must-see on my holiday calendar ever since my first visit. The houses are very large, and most people go all-out for the lighting display. It's not uncommon to see limos going through there, and they even have a horse-carriage service that specializes in the area. One of the first houses we passed at the front of the subdivision had a sign decrying vandalism of some sort, and indeed, some sort of a snowman was down in their front yard. And while I certainly hope that vandals don't defile the beauty that is the Deerfield display, we also noticed quite a few inflatables that seemed to have partially or totally fallen down on their own accord (or fallen victim to the recent windy weather); some of them were raring back on their heels as if tipsy, so we started referring to them as "drunken snowmen." It became a running joke throughout the night as we continued to see them; one of the snowmen appeared to simply have face-planted into the grass.

This year, the animation craze has hit Deerfield as well; the Zephries house at 4540 Old Pond (no invasion of privacy here; the address is also published in the paper and on its website), which has 75,000 lights synchronized to a variety of tunes (again over low-power FM radio), including the same Trans-Siberian Orchestra song ("Wizards in Winter") used by the guy in Ohio whom I posted about a year ago. Old Pond is already one of the longest and most-decorated streets in the subdivision, and this amazing display caused the traffic to back up quite a bit more than usual, but nobody seemed to care.

I was hoping to find their display on YouTube already--a sign out front did say, "Smile--you're on camera!" after all--but not so far, though I did find a video of last year's home display of Jeff Trykoski, the guy who did the Frisco setup; I need to catch this one live too. I also found a YouTube link for Carson Williams' Ohio show from last year for those of you who, like me, don't have WMP. (For pictures of last year's Deerfield display, go here.)

UPDATE: The Old Pond house also has its own website.

All in all, it's been a great year for lights once again. If you're in the Dallas area, you can read about these lights and many others in this article from the DMN Guide.

Open season on Frosty, part 1: While vandals didn't mar the Deerfield display, others around the country haven't been so lucky. In the Detroit area, two sisters in their 30's were caught stealing Christmas lights and an inflatable snowman from another person's yard.

Open season on Frosty, part 2: In the Houston suburb of Friendswood, two adult men (one of whose name is Partridge) were caught stealing decorations from three homes and ripping a hole in an inflatable Frosty in the yard of one of the houses; they said they were stealing to support their drug habits, and they were caught after they ran a red light on their way out of the neighborhood. (Oddly enough, Frosty was riding shotgun in the vehicle at the time of the suspects' apprehension.)

Open season on Frosty, part 3: In the only case I've seen so far that actually involved teenagers, two 18-year-olds in Cincinnati were charged with stabbing a 12-foot tall inflatable Frosty with a screwdriver.

It would have been even more unusual if their names were Mary and Joseph: Greg Barnett and Candy Belcher met while doing a live nativity five years ago, so I guess it's only appropriate that they got married at one as well.


Kev said...

Yeah, I didn't have the map to the Trykoskis' when I was visiting the square on Tuesday, or I would've gone there too. I'm going to try to do that either tonight or next week when I'm back in town.

So Gary, what's your take on the whole "creating a new downtown so close to the old one" syndrome? I used to take Combo Too to play the Christmas tree-lighting on the old square a few years ago, and it was nice, but I'm also into that whole retro-urban thing (Firewheel, Southlake Town Square, etc.), and it would have been hard to do that using the original downtown.

Kev said...

Oh, OK...I read that one, but I guess I didn't associate it with Frisco Square, because you'd said something about tearing down some old historic buildings, and I'm pretty sure that the square was built out of an empty field (I could be wrong, bu I don't remember anything out there before, and certainly not anything of historical value).

I've also found that, while doing this post, I've had a heckuva time typing the word "square." It comes out as "sqaure" nine times out of ten.

(The verification word for this comment is "egnoku"--a number puzzle to do while drinking the holiday nog, perhaps.)

Kev said...

Once again, Gary, it's too bad you don't have time to be a blogger; these are some great posts.

I agree with you that there may be a certain sterility about the "new urbanism," but sometimes that's what it takes to get people out of their fenced yards and gated communtiies and actually be around other people, and that's not a bad thing.

I'll admit it--I like Firewheel more than downtown Garland. Parking is better, and there's just a lot more to do at Firewheel. (Of course, there's a bit of bias in there as well, because Firewheel is three minutes from my house.)

Call it an all-too-typical suburban mentality, but you can count me among those who like the urban setup without the "grit" (assuming that "grit" can be defined as not having to smell garbage, step over bodily fluids on the ground, worry about getting mugged, etc.). Does that make me shallow? I hope not. I just think that making the suburbs look more urban, while avoiding the aforementioned "grit," is the best of both worlds.

And if they had tried to incorporate Frisco Square into the existing downtown (which would have likely involved street closures, knocking down some of the existing historic buildings, etc.), I bet there would have been quite a bit of squawking on your local message boards over there.

Great conversation...